Canelo beats Lara in controversial split decision

July 13, 2014

Canelo Alvarez won a controversial split-decision victory Saturday night over Erislandy Lara in which he clearly was the more aggressive man in the ring, but not necessarily the more efficient or effective fighter.

In a scorecard that reflected the judges' preference for an aggression-based style versus a stick-and-move boxing approach, the bout was scored 115-113 for Lara (Judge Jerry Roth), 115-113 for Canelo (Dave Moretti), and 117-111 for Canelo (Levi Martinez).  Showtime analyst Steve Farhood had Lara winning the fight.

A 115-113 score for either fighter was understandable.  The 117-111 score less so, as it seemingly reflected a case in which a judge simply disliked the style of one boxer over the other.

Lara, a slick boxing southpaw and decorated Cuban amateur, displayed superb footwork, limiting Canelo’s chances by circling out of danger and then scoring when necessary with jabs and straight lefts.  He essentially fell back on his classic amateur roots, avoiding damage while landing a head shot from time to time that was obvious enough for the judges to see.

Meanwhile, a patient, but somewhat frustrated Canelo followed Lara throughout the fight, repeatedly missing his target before landing an occasional thudding body shot.  Canelo landed only 23 percent of his punches, with 73 of his total 97 landed punches being power shots to the body.

“I came to fight, I didn’t come to run here,” Canelo said.  “You don’t win by running. You win by hitting.  He does have a great jab and he moves around, but you don’t win a fight that way.  You don’t run."

Whether Lara was running or utilizing sound defense depends on one's point of view.

Ultimately, one can move and win rounds based on ring generalship, so long as there is some willingness to engage.  Lara did end up landing more punches than Alvarez, so there was a minimum effort to engage on his part.  However, it certainly could not be considered a high volume barrage by any means.

In some rounds, Canelo barely landed a glove on Lara, with Lara doing just enough potshotting to seemingly earn the round.

The 32-year-old Lara was upset with the split decision.

“One hundred percent I won this fight,” Lara said.  “I was controlling the rounds and, worse, I made him look bad in front of his fans.  People know I won this fight."

Lara was correct in the sense that he dictated the style and pace of the fight by his superior lateral movement.  Although he was not offensive-minded and never hurt Canelo, he landed more clean shots.

But Canelo clearly pressed the action, or at least tried to do so.  Similar to Lara, his approach had flaws as well.

In some rounds, Canelo displayed a determined body attack, and seemed to be able to score on the inside.

In other rounds, he aimlessly followed his opponent and could not land a shot.

Fighters can bag rounds on ring generalship and effective aggressiveness, and Canelo seemed to be lacking in both areas for several rounds.

Canelo, was aggressive, but not always effectively aggressive.  More often than not, he would swing and miss, forget to throw his jab, or fail to get off his shots first.  Worse yet, he did not seem to know how to cut off the ring, as Lara rarely had to fight his way out of the corners.

He also lacked ring generalship, as he fought Lara's fight the whole time, and never forced his opponent to alter his style for any significant time period.

Despite the inaccurate 117-111 score, one could make a case the Alvarez did just enough to earn a win,  although Lara's camp could also reasonably make the same claim in a close, but unspectacular bout.

For Canelo and Golden Boy Promotions, it is not the narrow margin that should be alarming, as many knew Lara was a dangerous opponent who could make any fighter look bad, even in victory.

Instead, it is the fact that Canelo has again struggled to find an answer on how to tactically fight a pure boxer.  He struggled to mount any effective attack against Floyd Mayweather, and he left a lot to be desired against Lara.

The one element he did bring in this fight, perhaps the tactic that won him the bout, was a better body attack than in the Mayweather bout.  Lara disputed this notion, however.

“The body shots connected but they didn’t have any force," said Lara.   "I still have no respect for him.  I’m asking for a rematch.  One hundred percent I’ll do the same and we’ll win again.”

Canelo has good chemistry with his team and appears to trust in them, but perhaps an upgrade in the corner is necessary going forward.  Despite his smarts and poise, he could use some help, as his current trainer still has not taught him how to properly cut off the ring against an elite boxer.

The Undercard

Abner Mares bounced back from the first loss of his career and overcame the adversity of a cut on his left eyelid to win by unanimous decision over Jonathan Oquendo.  The judges scored the bout 96-94, 98-92, and 98-92.

Fighting for the first time with renowned trainer and defensive specialist Virgil Hunter, Mares fought intelligently throughout the bout.  Mares landed 49 percent of his power punches, doubling up Oquendo (24 percent), who failed to make adjustments and didn’t throw enough jabs to put himself in a position to land power shots.

In another bout, youngster Francisco Vargas defeated veteran Juan Manuel Lopez via TKO when Lopez’s corner stopped the bout after a vicious third round.

In a round of the year candidate, Vargas (20-0-1, 14 KOs) and Lopez exchanged shots in brutal back and forth action in the third stanza.   Lopez (34-4, 31 KOs) was knocked down with 20 seconds to go in the third after eating a huge right hand.  Lopez got up and continued to press, but ate another big shot in the closing seconds and was dazed as he walked back to his corner.

Lopez has sustained heavy damage in his recent knockout losses, and is slowly devolving into a steppingstone fighter who should perhaps consider retirement.

“I wanted to keep fighting – I’m a warrior,” Lopez said. “But my corner decided it was enough.  I really don’t know right now if I’m going to retire.  I have to sit down with my family and my promoter and decide what the next step will be.”

By Staff of and news services

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